From The Comfortably Numb: Greenaway’s summary of why people choose to eat organic is right on the mark. What we eat is tied to a whole host of social and environmental concerns that we have a responsibility to repair. Agriculture has literally changed the face of the earth by clearing millions of acres of rich complex habitat and replaced it with single species (mostly corn, or soybeans). They follow this habitat detruction with an enormous effort to kill off “pests” or “weeds” to maintain their monoculture. The fact that they cut everything down every season and turn over the soil means that they kill everyting, including the soil, so they must fertilize the dead soil every year. Of couse, fertilizer is made from fossil fuels. Organic farming is an integrated way of thinking that considers more than just the food. It values the networks of relationships associated with our food chains and respects the healthy relationships that one must maintain for our species to survive into the future. To only look at the nutritional aspect of eating organic displays the same fragmented single mindedness that got us in trouble in the first place.


It happens like clockwork; every few months, a rant against local and/or organic food appears in one of the papers of record. The author is nearly always an educated man who uses the words “elite” and “elitist” at least 175 times while defending today’s corporate food system and implying directly or indirectly that changes to the status quo — which often inherently begin with those who can afford to make them — should be seen as suspect at best, and downright damaging at worst.

There was James McWilliams’ 2009 book, Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, and the whole array of anti-locavore screeds that accompanied it in the Atlantic and The New York Times. And among the many others that have come since were James Budiansky’s 2010 claim that locavores needed math lessons and Canadian academic and author Pierre Desrochers’…

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  1. thanks. this is a complex messy problem. We want to make it better, all of us with some disposable income, but have no idea where to start. My shopping cart full of inconsistencies and ridiculous justifications are just the tip of the iceberg. None of us are dumb enough to believe we are substantially more healthy for our organic choices. But maybe in some small way we are making a better choice. Not every time we shop, I’ll admit, but it is a start. I would challenge each of us to make at least one or maybe two decisions every day to take the more difficult path and choose a more local/less environmentally expensive option, even if it isn’t perfect.

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